The Planned Giving Blogger

The art and science of planned giving.

The paradox of choice.

with 3 comments

As early as the 1970s, Alvin Toffler, the futurist, identified the concept of “over-choice,” the idea that faced with too many choices, consumers have trouble making decisions.  In his 2004 book, The Paradox of Choice,” Barry Schwartz illustrated how our chocies have grown exponentially since then, making decision-making that much more difficult.  So, what does this notion have to do with gift planning?

Many planned giving marketing and fulfillment pieces try to cover too much ground.  We offer readers content covering a wide range of gift types in a single piece.  We already know that 85% of all planned gifts are bequests.  But we also know that there are other gift types that might interest some among the broad audience to whom we are writing.  That’s why we need to find the middle ground between offering too few and too many options.  When we persist in spending too much of our marketing “real estate” on a wide variety of uncommon gift types or gifts that are complex to understand and execute we risk paralyzing our reader with too many choices.

This is especially true when our objective is lead generation rather than closing a gift.  Lead generation is akin to an impulse transaction.  We want the recipient to raise her hand/ask for more information/indicate an interest.  We don’t really want our donor to agnoize over that decision.  We want a gut reaction that says “That interests me.  I’ll think I’ll find out more.”  Later on, ideally after we’ve had a conversation with the donor and shared more detailed information about the type of gift she has in mind, she can thoughtfully decide whether or not to make a gift commitment.  But by then, we’ve narrowed the choices to the gift type(s) that are right for her.



Written by Phyllis Freedman

October 27, 2009 at 7:25 am

3 Responses

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  1. Very interesting post. Strikes me that this is the same concept we focus on in direct mail — not asking for too many things and striving to keep the reply form very, very simple. I guess the lesson is that good marketing concepts work for all levels of your donor file.

    Question? Do you think there is a certain dollar level of donor that it makes sense to market the more complex gift planning options? I know bequests are very typical for donors at any level but do the other vehicles tend to be more appropriate for the higher end of the file?

    Kathy Swayze

    October 28, 2009 at 7:14 am

  2. That’s a great question! I’m not sure gift size is an accurate predictor of interest in a more complex gift. It’s probably best to continue focusing on prospect identification/lead generation with the objective of describing unique gift types once the prospect has been qualified. It’s always a good idea in written correspondence to include statements like “There are many ways to structure a gift to us. We will work with you to help identify the best approach for you.”

    Phyllis Freedman

    October 28, 2009 at 8:08 am

  3. You’re on the right track. Robert F. Sharpe, in his course “Major Gift Planning,” suggests that age and relative wealth are the best markers for PG education. Bequest awareness is for everyone but it would be foolish to send a mailing about remainder trusts to those of known limited means. Donor research (from informal notes all the way to paid-for screenings) is a good beginning. Just knowing dates of birth and a simple wealthy / middle / limited classification can sharpen awareness-raising efforts and evoke your joyous reaction when a reply card is returned.

    Jim Roehm

    November 4, 2009 at 1:05 pm

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